Swampy: a tunnel star undermined

Newspaper columns, TV shows, makeovers - his fellow eco-warriors are not happy. Graham Ball reports

The surge of publicity that turned Swampy, the environmental protester, into a media celebrity is now creating waves of unrest among his underground supporters.

The vibes echoing around the secret world of the subterranean saboteurs imply that "Swampy fever" may be about to give way to "Swampy sickness".

Some dedicated activists believe that the star status surrounding Daniel "Swampy" Hooper is so great that it overshadows the issues they are fighting for.

They argue that the New Age eco-warrior, who became the acceptable face of the environmental resistance movement, has feet of clay.

Writer Michael Fordham attacks the Newbury by-pass tunneller and folk hero in the current issue of the youth style magazine Dazed and Confused.

"Countless columnists have eulogised Swampy's brand of free-range political protest," said Mr Fordham.

"The media need stars and figureheads to fill airtime and column inches. In reality, however, Swampy is just one member of a network of hundreds, perhaps thousands of committed individuals all over the country, who are prepared to put their bodies on the line for an ideal."

A fellow protester, Alan, an ex-Para, who fought with Swampy to prevent the new runway at Manchester airport, is equally scathing. Alan was based in the Flywood camp at the protest site in Bollin Wood, Cheshire.

"Flywood was the camp to be at, Babylon council estate we called it. Right on the front line, they were all head cases," he said.

"Swampy was in Cliff Richard [camp]. They got all the media attention, most of the food, booze and cash handouts."

Swampy, 24, comes from a middle-class family from High Wycombe, Bucks, and has been a full-time protester for almost three years.

"The reality is that the people at the core of the environmental protest movement are not all nice fluffy middle-class individuals," said Mr Fordham. "They are people who have led troubled lives and for the most part the sub-culture of the camps is their only family."

On Friday a new exhibition of 105 photographic images from two years of the environmental protest movement opens at the Dazed and Confused gallery in Old Street, London.

The exhibition will feature portraits of 30 protesters - but Swampy's is not included.

The pictures of protesters in their camps in Newbury, Manchester and Devon are the work of photographer Nick Clague.

"There is one image of Swampy in the exhibition," said Mr Clague, who spent two years assembling the material for the show. "It shows a protester, 'Dave with the Green Hair', who had been invited in by a neighbour to have a bath and something to eat. He is sitting on a sofa watching TV and Swampy is on the screen. It makes an important ironic point."

Photo editor Philip Poynter helped select the pictures for the "Mayday Mayday" exhibition which will run at the east London gallery until 4 July.

"I think it is true that there is a feeling of resentment among some. Swampy has done no more and no less than a number of other anonymous campaigners," said Mr Poynter.

"Others feel that what he does undermines their arguments. They realise that the right-wing press love to make a mockery of what they do ... They want it to be known that they are not just a bunch of nutters who enjoy climbing up trees and hiding down holes."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen